Earth-23 #1

By Calvin Burrell


Washington D.C.

President Calvin Ellis walked up to a podium with microphones on top and the Seal of the President of the United States on the front. Cameras broadcasted the image across TV networks and the internet to millions of viewers. Above him, the sun shone down from a clear sky on the scene taking place just outside the White House. Before him sat the nation and the world's top reporters, including a certain Pulitzer Prize winner from the Daily Planet in Metropolis. Her gaze was both intense and eager as the president began to speak.

"My fellow Americans, I stand before you today to announce another addition to the growing Alliance of Nations. After lengthy discussions with President Harrat, Qurac has joined has joined Atlantis, Markovia, Themyscira and countless others as one of our nation's trusted allies. This represents another step towards a future of international collaboration and true world peace. Peace, not just for our generation, but for our children, and our children's children. The greatest accomplishment we as a people can make, the greatest legacy we can leave behind, is a world that we can truly take pride in. A world that believes in the responsibility of every individual, and every leader, to do what they can for the greater good. A world of safety, of security and above all else, a world of uni-"

The president's speech was cut off by an abrupt rumbling sound. The ground shook and President Ellis held onto the podium for stability. There were shouts of confusion that turned into cries of panic as massive plant vines burst out of the ground around the White House. A few of them grabbed reporters, security staff, ambassadors and anyone who happened to be close. A secret service team surrounded the president as a much larger and thicker vine dug its way out of the ground. The end of the vine looked like a massive mutated Venus fly trap. Its jaws opened and venomous green ooze dripped out. Atop the plant creature's head, a woman with red hair and an outfit that appeared to be made of leaves and plant material sat seductively. Even those who didn't live in Gotham recognized her as Poison Ivy, who had been on the run with her new partner.

"Safety, Mr. President? Security?" Poison Ivy spoke from her perch but her voice could be heard well, as if she spoke through the plants themselves. "You talk about safety and security for your children, but what about my babies? What about the precious plant life lost when a rain forest is cut down? Or when everything from a mighty tree to the tiniest sapling is ripped from its roots to build a gaudy shopping mall? What about their safety? Who speaks for them!?"

The secret service team tried to get President Ellis back inside the White House and to the panic room inside. As they got close the door, a woman kicked it open from the other side. She wore a red and black checkered costume and had clown-like face paint with blonde pigtails that would have looked cute if not for the massive hammer in her hands that had suspicious-looking stains on the head. She was Poison Ivy's new partner, Harley Quinn.

"Why don'tcha stick around, Prez? Plant lady's great at givin' speeches!" Harley said with a laugh. She rested the hammer on her shoulder while blocking the door. The secret service team drew their guns but Harley just shook her head.

"Mistah Hammer doesn't like it when ya point guns at me. Now he's gotta teach you guys a lesson!" Harley taunted the team before swinging the hammer with surprising speed. The closest agent was struck in the face. His glasses shattered and there was a spray of blood as he went down. The next agent was hit in the chest which knocked the air out of them and rendered them unconscious.

"See, he's got a problem with authority!" Harley emphasized her words with hammer strikes. There was a crunch as an agent's kneecap was shattered, followed by another agents jaw.

"It's a common affliction in the criminally insane, ya see? Like me!" Harley was just having fun at this point. The last agent left tried to aim at her with his weapon. Harley put the head of the hammer to the ground and used the long handle as a pole to swing herself around, kicking the agent with both feet. The agent was out, leaving President Ellis and Harley as the last two people standing.

"Trust me! I'm a psychiatrist," Harley said as she rested the handle of the hammer across her shoulders. She wobbled to keep her balance on one leg in a way that was almost comedic. "Or was it a psychopath? So hard to keep track these days!"

President Ellis was trapped with Ivy on one side and Harley on the other. Harley smirked and put her hand on his head, forcing him to turn and look at Ivy.

"Leaving so soon, Mr. President?" said Ivy from above. "I can't find your family. They must already tucked away safe, but there's still a few meatbags out here to make an example of,"

With that, the vines lifted the victims up higher and began to squeeze. They writhed in the tight grip of the plants. Lois Lane's right arm was trapped but she held a pen in her left. Lois tried to stab the vines holding her but the outer layer was too thick for the pen to pierce through. It squeezed her tighter and the pen fell from her hand. She struggled to breathe and her vision began to fade. Just as it did, she saw a blue blur overhead.

Superman soared in overhead, taking only a split second to observe the scene. Ivy's vines had taken hold of ten people and she positioned herself in the middle of them. A quick x-ray scan showed who was most out of breath and closest to losing consciousness. He quickly prioritized them by their condition and mapped out the fastest flight path to get them out. Then he looked over to President Ellis. Unknown to most, the person they thought was the president was really a robotic facsimile made to look like an African-American male and play the role of Superman's alter-ego when he was otherwise occupied. The robot was built and controlled by the Kryptonian supercomputer, Brainiac, under Superman's instruction. Its advanced AI would make decisions and actions the same way a human would, but this situation was too high risk for it to be in the open long. These thoughts went through his mind in a fraction of a second and the blue blur never slowed.

Superman flew down and punched though a vine. It tore apart and released the person in its grasp. The head of the mutant plant monster let out a pained screech as Superman caught the falling ambassador. He flew off with them and set them down near a team of EMTs who were already on standby after having arrived with other first responders. The plant screeched more as the process repeated and Ivy yelled in pain with it. Lois was wishing she could cover her ears just as the vine holding her was broken. She let out a surprised scream and closed her eyes as the ground rushed up to meet her.

"I've got you, Ms. Lane," a familiar voice said. Lois slowly opened her eyes and saw the golden 'S' emblem of Superman on his chest. Her eyes trailed up to the face of the man himself and his reassuring smile.

"Hey! What's the big blue boy scout doing here?!" Harley yelled in panicked frustration. She watched Superman zip around, dodging the vines then grinned as if she realized something. "But if he's busy over there…he can't stop me from impeaching you, Prez. Impeach right over the head!"

"That…would be a bad idea," the facsimile president said. It had been looking for the best tactic to get out of this situation from the moment it started and now an opportunity presented itself.

"Yeah, yeah," Harley said uncaringly as she raised the hammer. "Just between you an' me, I didn't vote for ya. I voted for the bald guy,"

Harley was about to bring the hammer down when something stopped its mighty swing. She looked up to see a hand holding the shaft of the hammer. Harley turned her head to see the hovering form of Nubia, ambassador of Themyscira and current leader of the Justice League.

"He is correct," Nubia said, easily taking the hammer out of Harley's hands. "That was a bad idea,"

"No fair!" Harley squealed in protest as she hopped up and down, trying to reach her hammer. Nubia broke it over her knee and tossed the pieces aside. Then a golden lasso swung from her hands, wrapping Harley and pinning the criminal's arms to her sides. Harley tried to wiggle away but only managed to fall over.

Meanwhile, Superman continued to fly around the vines. With the hostages out of their grasp, Ivy tried to direct them to grab the man of steel. His flight patterns seemed random and erratic, making him difficult to stop. Ivy let out an angry yell as Superman simply stopped and winked at her. It took a moment for her to realize that all the vines were now entangled with each other. Before she had a chance to undo the knots, red laser-like beams of solar energy seared through the largest vine, holding the venus flytrap head. Acidic green ooze spilled out onto the ground as the massive plant head fell. Ivy plummeted off it and head straight down, face first until a strong hand grabbed her.

"What were you hoping to accomplish?" Superman asked while holding Ivy. He floated down to the ground, keeping a firm grip on her wrist.

"I'm making a difference, Superman!" Ivy snarled as a SWAT team approached. "For me and all the plant life you people choose to ignore!"

"I know for a fact that President Ellis has made progress in protecting the environment and increasing use of clean energy," Superman said, trying not to sound like he knew too much as the SWAT team, equipped with gas masks took Ivy and cuffed her. "These displays of aggression are doing more harm than good to your cause,"

Ivy scowled but looked like she was considering what he'd said. Harley meanwhile was flown over and unceremoniously dumped on the ground by Nubia. She yelled and protested as the lasso came off and she too got cuffed. Two SWAT team members dragged Harley to a van, kicking and screaming. Nubia gave Superman a small nod and the two of them flew off together.

"Something on your mind?" Superman asked once the two were far above the rooftops.

"That's what I wanted to ask you," Nubia said. "We haven't had a chance to speak since the last League meeting and as I recall you left early. With another poor excuse,"

"I've been busy," Superman admitted. "The Alliance of Nations is progressing faster than even I expected. And you should know that keeping a secret identity is difficult, to say the least. Even if you don't have one,"

"Who says I don't?" Nubia replied playfully. "Maybe I'm better at keeping secrets than you are,"

"Maybe. But I've only told two others in the League about my identity. You and Steel,"

"What about Batman?"

"He figured it out," Superman stated, with a bitter tone. "All on his own. Besides, he's not a member of the League anymore. Not officially,"

"Are you two still not speaking to each other?"

"Please don't make it sound like some petty schoolyard spat. He knows something about the Joker's death that he isn't telling me,"

"The man is your best friend, Kalel. Or at least he was," Nubia spoke with a frown and put a hand on Superman's shoulder. "If you want answers, you should go to him,"

"I've tried that..." Superman said defensively. "He's lied to me countless times before but not like this. His heart rate increased and there was sweat on his brow. What could Batman know that would make even him nervous?"

"You believe he's the one who killed Joker? The majority of the Justice League thinks so,"

"I...I don't know. I believe he knows who did. And I believe we should be keeping an eye on him," Superman glanced upwards as he spoke. "Just like he's keeping an eye on us,"

Approximately one thousand and two hundred miles above the heroes, a Wayne Enterprises satellite floated through space, part of the larger WayneTech Orbital Relay Communication Link network. Originally proposed as an advanced satellite network, meant to connect every corner of the globe, its true purpose was known to a select few people. Telescopic cameras installed in the satellite watched Superman and Nubia, and that image was sent through the network where it was masked and encoded until it was impossible to trace. Then it was sent to a very specific supercomputer, hidden in a cave.


Gotham City

Batman sat in a chair before the Batcomputer, tenting his fingers as he studied the conversation Superman and Nubia were having. He had his mask off, revealing the grim face of Bruce Wayne. Without audio, he had to read lips to know what was being said. His eyes narrowed when he became the topic of the conversation. When Superman looked right into the camera, for one moment Bruce thought the man of steel could see him. He rationalized that Superman was simply looking at the camera, easily finding it with his super senses. Bruce's brow furrowed at the thought.

"Looks like those two were successful," said a young voice from behind him. Bruce didn't need to turn to know his son, Damian Wayne, was standing there. "Though The Cat might use her influence to get Harley and Ivy out of trouble again,"

"Not even Selina Kyle can get them out of this," Bruce said. "They tried to kill the president,"

"It's a good thing Superman and Nubia were there," said a blonde haired young woman, Stephanie Brown, who joined the other two by the computer. She was noticeably out of breath as she spoke.

"Shouldn't you two be practicing the agility course?" Bruce asked, still not looking their way.

"Tt. As if Fatgirl could keep up with me," Damian snorted, earning an eye roll from Stephanie. "Still, superhero or no, they should have called us. Doctors Quinzel and Isley are our villains. We should at least have been consulted,"

"That wouldn't have been necessary," Bruce replied, switching the screen to a satellite image of Gotham.

"Even if it was, they wouldn't have. It's like we've all been blacklisted since..." Damian had started to say something, running his hand along a scar on his left cheek as he did. He pulled his hand back as if trying to resist an old habit.

"I know what you're going to say. You made your view clear before,"

"But it isn't fair," Damian protested. "It isn't right..."

"Damian...enough," Bruce said, getting tense.

"Superman won't talk to you and the League turned their backs. I'm sorry, father but it's wrong and you shouldn't have to take it. You should have to deal with this because I-"

"Enough!" Bruce said sharply, turning to face Damian. There was a look of hurt and confusion on the boy's face as he fell silent. Stephanie put a hand on his shoulder.

"Hey, why don't we get back to training?" she offered, trying to change topics. "You can show me how much I suck at the course,"

Damian looked down with an expression of guilt, but turned to follow her wordlessly. Bruce turned back to the computer and let out a heavy sigh when the two young heroes were out of earshot. His shoulders slumped as he felt the weight of fatherhood upon them again.


Metropolis

A flaming object plummeted down from the sky. The object was silver and had a cylindrical shape. It curved through the sky then crashed just off the coast of the city of Metropolis. The waves from the crash splashed water up on the dock and boardwalk areas. The object sank into the water and there it sat, cooling off. It went undisturbed until moments later, when a translucent giant green hand reached into the water and plucked it out.

"Here it is," Green Lantern John Stewart of Sector 2814 said as he put the object down in front of fellow Justice League member, Vixen, who was waiting on the shore.

"But what is it?" Vixen wondered aloud as she walked around the object. "Looks like some kind of escape pod maybe..."

"The ring says that whatever it's made of isn't found on Earth," John said as he ran a scan on it. "Definitely synthetic. It could be alien,"

"John..." Vixen said when she got to the opposite side of the object. "Come look at this,"

Made curious by her tone, John floated down beside her. He could see a window build into the craft, giving a view of the inside. Within, a young woman lay there as if in a deep sleep. Just under the window, a symbol was etched into the craft. The familiar 'S' symbol of Superman.